Let’s be real, honesty terrifies people — probably more than almost anything else. We like to fill our social interactions with surface-level conversations about how we’re “doing just fine” and save the real stuff for a select few people we trust. Even then, it’s tempting to only confide deep feelings that reflect well on us and push the ugliest stuff deep down. Do the masks we wear cause us to lose out on potential deep connections? Probably.
Brooklyn artist Jessica Prusa wanted to see what would happen if she skipped the surface-level niceties and presented her most vulnerable, raw thoughts to strangers. So, as she explained on The Hairpin, Jessica created an OKCupid profile (originally for a nude self portrait-themed art exhibit in New York) that explores the honesty of the Internet when paired with the accountability of having your name and face next to your words. Her profile shared some of her deepest thoughts and fears, as she hoped to gauge how men would respond to blunt truthfulness instead of the “best self” we tend to present in our online personas.
Along with a photo of herself, she listed her full name and place of birth (and her desire for a “large, uncircumsized penis”). Under the “self-summary” section, instead of a typical glossy description of a “great” career and interesting personality, she writes
“I waver between over confidence and crippling insecurity, depending on who I’m communicating with and if I think that person is more intelligent, cultured or artistically talented than I am or have the potential to be.”
Under “what I’m doing with my life,” she wrote:
“I’m trying really hard to find something I care about enough to commit to entirely … I’m also trying really hard to blend into American life again and catch up to my contemporaries who are light years ahead of me in terms of careers, connections, salaries and living standards.”
Definitely not your typical first-date chatter.
The responses Jessica got were … not horrible. Instead of the hateful or creepy messages that the internet seems to do so well, she received lots of notes from people who were touched by what she had to say, like:
“Hello, I’m M. I’m a fellow artist and all I can really say is that we’re very similar and I closely empathize with most of the issues you’re facing. I don’t know if that’s helpful for you or not but it has been for me, the very few times it’s happened.”
“hey, you’re okay. Hang in there, man.”
Jessica found herself conflicted about whether blunt honesty up front is the best way to connect with others, both online and in real life. What she did know for sure was that it felt, if nothing else, incredibly liberating.
What would life be like if we were constantly this open with each other? Would it foster deeper connections or just be terrifying? Just reading Jessica’s honesty about herself, let alone being honest myself, makes me feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Like we can all breathe and just be us for a second instead of some guarded attempt at perfection. Perhaps there’s something to be said for telling the truth instead of hiding behind “I’m fine.”